Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - Lebron Haters, a Torah Perspective

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago (he has recently resurfaced on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles), I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

Last night, the Dallas Mavericks completed an unlikely run to win their first NBA championship. In so doing, the Mavericks swept the defending champion LA Lakers in four games, before going five games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and then taking down the heavily favored Miami Heat in six games.

An interesting side note to the series was the nation's strong and perhaps unhealthy rooting interest against the Miami Heat. Prior to the current NBA season, the Miami Heat were not a "hated" sports team as they had no strong rivalry with another team and had not done anything controversial in their NBA history.

And then came last summer's "the decision", Lebron James' television special where he revealed that he was signing as a free agent with the Miami Heat. There has been much debate about whether James had ever intended to resign with Cleveland or even consider offers from the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets or other potential suitors. Regardless of James' motives, much of the rest of the country (other than parts of South Florida) became Lebron "Haters" and by extension, began to root against the Miami Heat.

Fast forward to the NBA championship finals. The Heat had just dispatched the Chicago Bulls in five games, after beating the Boston Celtics in similar fashion. Most prognosticators projected that the Heat would beat the Mavericks in five or six games and take home the title. After winning the first game of the series, the press became louder in their touting of the Heat to win the championship. Dirk Nowitzky was playing with an injured hand and it looked like there was nothing between the Heat and glory. And then the Mavericks changed the way they were playing defense and James began to falter late in games. Suddenly, everyone on talk radio, in the newspapers, online and even people in the street began to express their hope that the Heat would lose. These expressions were not based on a love for the Mavericks or a dislike for the City of Miami (which has not engendered hatred like Boston or New York). It was pure, unadulterated loathing of Lebron James.

[For a great piece on Braylon Edwards, a former native son of Cleveland who was also hated when he left the City, and his efforts to give back to Cleveland, even though he has been gone for years - click here].

After the Mavericks finished off the Heat, there was a predictable series of interviews with Miami players and specifically Lebron James. One quotable thought from an interview which was picked up by the national media involved the following statement:

"[A]t the end of the day, all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that."

While James was lambasted in the press for making this statement, I can see the logic in his words and indeed there is a Torah perspective which backs his thought. The sifrei mussar speak against the concept of jealousy and explain that when a person is jealous he is rejecting Hashem. The reason behind this concept is simple - if a person is jealous of another, he is not only expressing his displeasure with another person having something that he does not possess. A greater problem with this concept is that the person is actually rejecting Hashem's choice in giving the other person something which that person does not have. Every morning when the unhappy individual wakes up and hates the other person, he is actually saying, I hate you G-d for not giving me what he has. If the person then acts on his hatred, he will require Hashem to rebalance the equities in order to return each party to the level that he belongs on. It is for this reason that we are taught to be happy with our own lot, as it is taught in Pirkei Avos - who is wealthy, one who is happy with his lot.

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